Karlovy Vary 2023 Review: SAY GOD BYE, Homage to Godard in a Meta-Documentary Journey

Thomas Imbach's pilgrimage to cinematic titan Jean-Luc Godard intertwines personal introspection, an homage to cinema, and an exploration of the filmmaker's legacy.

Contributor; Slovakia (@martykudlac)
Karlovy Vary 2023 Review: SAY GOD BYE, Homage to Godard in a Meta-Documentary Journey
Swiss director Thomas Imbach's latest work, Nemesis, has created a stir on the global film stage. This documentary provides a seven-year time-lapse glimpse into the transformation of a historic Zurich freight station into a Police Centre and Prison, as seen from Imbach's window.
The film presents a chronicle of architectural metamorphosis intertwined with societal shifts, notably Europe's escalating xenophobia, explored through the experiences of immigrants confronting the stark reality of confinement.
Imbach, oscillating between documentary and fictional storytelling, now presents Say God Bye, a gonzo road movie essay revolving around cinema titan Jean-Luc Godard. Imbach's bond with Godard is uniquely intimate, as he claims to have been conceived during a screening of Breathless. This connection to Godard seems predestined and shapes the film's trajectory. 
In the film's opening, Imbach recalls seeing Godard being celebrated at the International Film Festival of Kerala, which highlighted Godard's physical fragility, and sparked a deep desire in Imbach to meet the man who shaped his career since his adolescence.
Imbach shares that he once wrote to Godard proposing to become his apprentice, a proposition left unanswered. His journey in Say God Bye is driven by this unanswered call; he hopes to meet Godard at the end of this pilgrimage.
Accompanying Imbach is his co-editor and longtime editing consultant, David Charap, transforming Say God Bye into a buddy road movie. Filmed in a diary-like format, the film captures their encounters with strangers along their journey from Lake Zurich to Lake Geneva during the pandemic, interspersed with sporadic tributes to Godard. The duo revisits Godard's film locations, which carry more symbolic weight than tangible insights.
Imbach's soliloquies dominate Say God Bye, reflecting on his filmmaking career and Godard's influence, ultimately framing the film more as a reflection on Imbach's life than a direct commentary on Godard. While ostensibly a farewell to Godard, the film remains a love letter to the cinema giant without adopting a funereal tone.
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Say God Bye offers a convergence of two realms: one composed of archival footage accompanied by Imbach's musings and the other of spontaneous current footage captured, akin to a reality TV videoblog, based on impromptu exchanges between Imbach and Charap.
The film integrates autobiography, archive documentation, and v-blogging into a unique blend, reflecting on the essence of cinema and personal connections to its pioneers, subtly warning to never meet your idols.
The film concludes with a somewhat bittersweet and perplexing finale, which is further disconcerting as Godard decided to voluntarily depart from the world shortly after. Say God Bye serves as a meditation on cinema, its manifold forms, and pioneering figures. Ultimately, Imbach crafts a hybrid genre -- a gonzo meta-documentary -- merging various documentary styles.
The film enjoyed its world premiere at the Karlovy Vary Film Festival
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David CharapJean-Luc GodardKarlovy Vary 2023SwitzerlandThomas Imbach

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